Fraudster mum who used dead children for benefits and stole from the elderly to pay back just £1

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A Lincolnshire mum who pocketed over £50,000 by claiming false benefits and targeting vulnerable pensioners has been ordered to pay back just a token amount of £1.

Maria Pridmore, 36, was jailed for three years in August after she admitted a string of frauds. They included pocketing more than £16,000 worth of housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support.

A proceeds of crime investigation was carried out in to Pridmore’s finances after she was described as a “Walter Mitty” style fraudster who also stole more than £30,000 from four women.

The former drug addict even used one of her elderly victims’ bank details to pay a £60 taxi fare for one of her many trips to court.

On Friday, Pridmore appeared at Lincoln Crown Court by video-link from Drake Hall prison in Staffordshire where she is still serving her sentence

The hearing was told Pridmore benefitted by £56,679 from her crimes but had no available assets which could be confiscated to pay back her victims.

Judge Simon Hirst ruled that in the circumstances a nominal sum of £1 should be paid.

Pridmore hit the headlines in 2012 when she gave birth to a “miracle” daughter after previously suffering 14 miscarriages, a stillbirth and the death of an infant son over a heartbreaking 13-year period.

At Pridmore’s sentencing hearing in August the court heard she had been claiming to be a lone-parent with dependent children in order to get benefits, but at various times failed to declare she had moved or was living with her then partner as man and wife.

Pridmore failed to attend any appointments with the investigator.

The court heard Pridmore was also a serial fraudster who pocketed more than £30,000 after targeting four women.

In 2013 Pridmore stole over £14,000 after linking a credit card belonging to Katherine Saunders to her PayPal account.

She also set up an account with “Fashion World” in the name of Katherine Saunders, taking more than £250 of items, and obtained a further £2,850 in cash from a bank by pretending to be Ms Saunders.

A year later, Pridmore also stole mail and the identity of her friend of 13 years, Sarah Spillane, and used the information to withdraw over £6,000 in over the counter and telephone banking withdrawals. It left Ms Spillane and her teenage daughter too afraid to leave their house in case Pridmore broke in.

Pridmore also targeted dementia sufferer Angela Bird, 78, after approaching the pensioner outside Spalding police station in 2015.

Pridmore took Mrs Bird home and befriended her daughter-in-law after after claiming her mother had recently died and she was working as a Macmillan nurse. She later took Mrs Bird to the bank and used her bank card to withdraw £250. The following day Pridmore used the card again to steal a further £300.

In the same year Pridmore stole £2,800 from Davina Crocker, 84, after meeting her at the bus station in Boston.

Pridmore took the money using Ms Croker’s ATM card and also used it to buy over £500 worth of goods. Ms Crocker was considered so vulnerable she could not make a formal statement.

Sarah Munro, prosecuting, said even after Ms Crocker was taken in to a care home Pridmore continued to use her details to transfer over £5,000 out of her account and even used her bank card to pay for a £60 return taxi fare to court.

Pridmore also carried out a string of shop thefts and even stole a £1,331 flat pack kitchen belonging to her own father, Michael, just days after his wife’s death. Pridmore denied the theft when she was challenged by her father and was thrown out of the house.

Pridmore, of Angel Lane, Holbeach, Lincolnshire, admitted seven charges of benefit fraud between August 2010 and March 2013, 19 charges of fraud and theft between January 2013 and May 2016 and stealing her father’s kitchen in April 2015.

She also pleaded guilty to a series of shop thefts and obstructing a police officer.

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